The things you find.
I went into a drawer at work today to find some old Blackberries to give to the interns.
Underneath the wires and phones sat an old book. And within that book was a priceless treasure.
I know the book’s story as it was left behind by a former colleague, who explained its tale, a journey he took and a story he wrote.
The book is called The War Graves of the British Empire Etaples Military Cemetery The First Part Overseas Troops.
It details who and where 1,985 British and Dominion troops are buried in the Etaples cemetery.
These men almost all died of wounds or disease in a nearby military hospital.
This book is a grim and sad read, but within it is the tragic gem.
That gem comprises a letter from a soldier to his wife, written from hospital, giving love to the kids and hoping she wouldn’t mind a one-legged man about the house.
Next is the original CPR telegram telling the woman that man had died of his wounds two weeks later.
There is also a photo of his grave in France.
When you read the original telegram you can feel the pain of this woman as she read the words “deeply regret to inform you”.
The backstory is that after this man died, his wife married another man and that man adopted the children as his own.
The woman never spoke of her soldier husband again or told the kids who their real dad was, and his identity was only revealed when after her death these sad tokens were found secreted away in a drawer.
You see, she had never forgotten him. Her first love, Private Alex William Ross, 27, of Edmonton, died of wounds after losing a leg at Vimy.